The oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico may never be completely sealed off - this oil capture idea is based on whale hunting behaviour using bubble curtains.
Imagine a fleet of tugboats dropping hundreds of 10,000 psig air bottles overboard in a large circle around the oil leak site.
The resulting inverted conical curtain of bubbles contains and rises with the oil, each bubble's volume expanding 200 times as it rises towards the surface. This roiling, frothing and bubbly perimeter clearly defines where the thickening surface oil patch is located.
Each bottle is fitted with a balloon or parachute that slowly fills with air in a controlled rate so that when bottle pressure reaches 2300 psig (ambient at sea floor), the buoyancy is sufficient to float the bottle to the surface for capture and recycling.
The bottles would eventually be replaced by a permanent, submerged ring bubbler header with several feeders pumping high pressure air from compressors on ships or a platform anchored to the remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Now imagine a squadron of aircraft or a fleet of ships positioned around the bubble perimeter, dropping or launching thousands of spongey 'oil fish' into the center of this oily volcano. Each oil fish is designed to absorb just oil, remain afloat and be easily identified, captured and retrieved into small fishing boats.
BP would be required to pay a cash reward and provide a certified receipt for every oil fish that was returned at recycling centers in marinas along the coast. Local fishermen would prowl every inch of the coastline and thousands of tourists would cram into every rentable boat to do their part and get a trophy oil fish.
This equipment and procedures would be financed by all offshore oil drilling companies and every platform would be required to set up the bubbler header around their perimeter. The compressed gas could be changed from air to nitrogen or carbon dioxide if required to fight fires or dilute methane gas releases at the sea floor.